Wednesday, September 14, 2011

McCormac Review recommends that volunteers should take to take lessons in schools; we need three year evidence based pilot to justify change

Dear All

Some considerable time ago I put forward that SportScotland needed to be revamped from its present form, to produce more qualified instructors in Scotland.

In schools we have a highly paid PE teacher, when the job could be done so much more cost effective by bring in fitness instructors as they do in Sports Centres and Leisure clubs.

As someone who taught fitness to children and young adults, this is a suggestion which has merit in the increasingly tight financial world that we live in.

Hence my interest in public sector reform of local government.

Two of my previous reform suggestions are now in the process of being implemented Scottish National Police Force and Fire Services.

But local government is the real target for reform; out dated models need to change to make the services 21st century for both the clients and staff.

To that end someone needs to have ideas, I have also previously posted on my education idea of community college which children and adults can access to better themselves.

A new report has come out saying experts such as sports specialists, linguists, artists, musicians or employers should be allowed to take lessons in Scottish schools instead of teachers.

I think the idea has merit, but, anyone teaching in a school must have a certain standard, a great athlete doesn’t necessary make a great coach. The ability to teach is a skill that requires two things, complete understanding of the subject and the ability to pass the information on pitched at the level of the student.

Goal setting is important, short and long term, because the teacher isn’t just teaching the subject but the ability to think, guided by the teacher.

When I taught fitness in my youth, the people I taught learned the subject to instructor standard, part of their process was the ability to teach back.

The controversial proposal of letting others into the classroom is part of the McCormac Review.

It makes 34 recommendations on improving Scottish education; however the teaching unions will have to look closely at this report, as it affects their members.

The review of teachers’ working conditions suggests volunteer visitors could be “deployed in the classroom without the teacher being present”.


“Regular, structured involvement with groups such as sports specialists, college lecturers, university staff or local employers brings additional dimensions to the education being provided.”

Earlier this year, there was an outcry after Renfrewshire Council suggested volunteers could supervise cultural, citizenship and sporting activities in primary schools.

The plan was eventually scrapped.

It prompted much anger after teaching unions and parents described it as a “disgraceful” way of trying to save money.

Professor Gerry McCormac, chairman of the review, insisted all visiting experts would work under the close supervision of teaching staff.

However, he also stressed head teachers could decide if they were able to lead a class on their own.

I think head teachers aren’t suitable as this could lead to an imbalance in standards, there has to be more than someone’s subjective approval.

You need a frame work, you must have a frame work of academic and non academic criteria or you won’t have a start point, people, parents need to know that there is a minimum standard that their kids will learn, otherwise the project has no real and measureable value.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS union, said:

“Given the recent gauche attempt by Renfrewshire to displace teachers with unqualified staff, it is particularly disappointing the review joins the ranks
of the diluters who wish to lessen the input of qualified teachers to children’s education.”

An outright hostile response, to return to sport, if the world 100 metres champion or the world boxing champion was to take a class would Mr. Smith be chucking around the “unqualified staff” remark?

I think not.

Clearly there is a polarisation of views here, but as an idea it has merit, it is worthy of discussion, but any and all proposals must be to the benefit of the child.

And teachers should figure promptly in that education experience, I learned nothing from PE teachers during secondary school, I left school unable to swim, no knowledge of fitness, not even an understanding of football. The exercise classes such as they were at Crookston Castle consisted of football and minor athletics training, chucking a disc, 100 metres and other track and field.

Run and jump.

I left school unfit and ignorant of sport, health and fitness.

Is that what Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS union is fighting to protect so passionately?

There is room for reform but it needs to be right across the education portfolio which means it goes beyond children’s school and into higher education.

If this isn’t done then there will be problems elsewhere.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said the positive benefits of teachers working in partnership with external experts were known.

He added:

“However, we would need to be reassured that appropriate safeguards would be put in place to ensure these proposals would not erode the role of teachers.”

Anthony Finn, chief executive of the GTCS, expressed concern if the recommendation “were to lead to non-registered visitors being asked to take responsibility for the learning of pupils”.

How can someone as educated as Mr. Finn think that non-registered visitors would be allowed to teach, hasn’t he heard of The Children Act 1989 and the requirement placed on authorities to have responsible people in charge of children?

It has been on the books for 22 years!

I believe to move forward on this issue, there should be a pilot starting in sport provision to run for three years within a local authority area to establish real and measurable results.

Good ideas always remain good ideas but let’s move on the basis of evidence.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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